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By Eric Redner, Contributing NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - For the second straight campaign a strong regular season was followed by a disappointing playoff performance for the Dallas Stars.

Defeated by Colorado in five games during the first round of the 2004 playoffs, the Stars came into the 2005-06 season without many of the players that laced up the skates in 03-04.

The new rules, though, seemed to play into the hands of the Stars and if the game went to a shootout Dallas was a solid lock to win it.

Dallas finished the season atop the Pacific Division and appeared poised to make a run deep into the playoffs.

However, Colorado was again the bane of the Stars as the Avs downed the men from the Lone Star State in five games.

The team has let go of some key veterans in the offseason with the departure of forwards Jason Arnott and Bill Guerin and backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, but several players with some grit were added to toughen the team up.

Loud-mouth bad boy forward Matthew Barnaby was signed from the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington captain Jeff Halpern was signed for four years. Defenseman Darryl Sydor was welcomed back and he will be joined on the blueline with Jaroslav Modry, who came to the team in a trade with Atlanta that also saw forward Patrik Stefan join the team, and Niko Kapanen headed to the Thrashers.

One of the additions to the team that could have the most impact is the signing of oft-injured forward Eric Lindros. If he can stay healthy Lindros is still a potential point-a-game player, but the key words are "if he can stay healthy".

The new players will join the core group that is built around perennial All- Star Mike Modano, high-scoring blueliner Sergei Zubov, netminder Marty Turco and promising youngster Jussi Jokinen.

The Pacific Division will be better this year, but as long as they play up to their potential look for the Stars to be atop the group once again.

FORWARDS - Modano is the best player in team history and one of the elite players in the league since he started playing in 1989. After a disappointing 2003-04 campaign during which he produced the fewest number of points since the strike-shortened 1994-95 season, Modano bounced back last year and led the team with 77 points (27 goals and 50 assists). Look for the 36-year-old veteran to reach the 500-goal and 700-assist plateau this year as he needs 15 goals and two assists to reach those milestones.

With the departure of Guerin and Arnott look for head coach Dave Tippett to lean more heavily on veterans Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen to contribute on the scoreboard.

Morrow had his most productive season in 2005-06 and posted 23 goals and 42 assists. The bruising forward also led the team with 183 penalty minutes and a plus-30.

Jokinen, 23, tallied 17 goals and 38 assists in his rookie campaign. His real asset, though, was in the shootout. He led the league with a 76.9 percent average as he scored on 10 of his 13 attempts to help the Stars to a league- leading 12-1 record in shootouts.

Lehtinen, a two-time Selke winner, bounced back from a disappointing 2003-04 season and his 52 points were the most since the 1998-99 campaign. He led the team with goals (33), power play goals (14) and game-winning goals (six).

Stu Barnes is entering his 15th season and look for him to continue his solid play at both ends of the ice.

Lindros will be the big question mark amongst the forwards. Since being picked by the Quebec Nordiques with the first pick of the 1991 draft, Lindros has been a prolific scorer, but several concussions and various other injuries have limited his production over the years. The Stars gave him a one-year contract and the risk is worth the possible reward.

Look for Halpern and Stefan to center the third and fourth lines, respectively, with the possibility for promotion should Lindros go down.

Rounding out the forwards are right wing Antti Miettinen, left wing Nils Hagman and center Steve Ott. Possibly rookie additions could include wingers Loui Eriksson and Junior Lessard.

DEFENSE - The Stars improved their defensive corps this offseason with the additions of Sydor and Modry.

It will be Sydor's second tour of duty with Dallas. He played with the club from 1995-2003 and helped the club to its first Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1999. Entering his 15th season, Sydor should still have a couple solid years left in the tank.

Modry is a stabilizing presence on defense and can also contribute offensively. He scored 38 points with Atlanta last season and finished minus- nine on a squad that was not known for its defensive prowess.

Of course nobody can forget one of the game's top offensive-minded defenseman, Zubov. He bounced back from a sub-par 2003-04 season and finished second in the league for points by a defenseman with 71 (13 goals and 58 assists).

Philippe Boucher had the best season of his career as he posted 16 goals and 27 assists and finished plus-28.

Rounding out the defensive corps are Trevor Daley, Jon Klemm, Stephane Robidas and Janne Niinimaa.

GOALTENDING - Marty Turco had a stellar regular season, but again faltered in the playoffs, but to be fair no one performed well for the Stars in the postseason. Last year he finished third in the league with 41 wins and posted a 2.55 goals-against average. He appeared in 68 games last season and posted an .898 save percentage.

In the playoffs, though, he gave up 18 goals in the five-game series loss with a miserable .868 save percentage.

It is unclear as of now who will back-up Turco as Mike Smith, Dan Ellis and Tobias Stephan will all vie for the job.

http://146.145.120.3/default.asp?c=hockeynews&page=nhl/news/ADN4041448.htm
 
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